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Originally published February 21 2015

Medical scopes spread superbugs in US hospitals

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Measles fear-mongering is all the rage right now, but lesser-publicized reports about deadly superbugs suggest that a much bigger public health threat might be your local hospital. Over the past several years, nearly a dozen patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) in Seattle, Washington, have died, not because they weren't vaccinated, but because their doctors and nurses exposed them to drug-resistant superbugs via contaminated medical endoscopes.

This ongoing, deadly outbreak, if you will, is being blamed primarily on carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a difficult-to-treat infection that's exceptionally virulent due to antibiotic overuse. Eradicating it from healthcare centers and hospitals continues to be a challenge, with patients all across the country contracting it, and some dying from it.

According to reports, the contaminated scopes are supposedly being sanitized in accordance with manufacturer guidelines, suggesting that these cleaning methods aren't effective. Between 2012 and 2014, 11 of the 32 patients reported to be infected with the deadly bacteria during that time died, hospital and city health officials say, representing a roughly 34 percent mortality rate.

Superbug outbreaks occurring all across the US, with little media attention

Similar outbreaks have occurred in other areas, including in Pittsburgh in 2012 and Chicago in 2014. Contaminated scopes reportedly infected dozens of patients with superbugs during these two incidents, though neither one reported any deaths. Still, the threat of such infections is serious, especially for the immune-compromised who have a much higher risk of mortality.

CRE, as we reported back in early 2013, is a powerful killer that claims the lives of up to 50 percent of the people it infects, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also says cases of CRE have now been reported in almost all 50 states, with the first reported case of infection emerging in North Carolina in 2001.

"This is a national problem," reads a statement recently issued by VMMC, which insists that all endoscopes used at the hospital are individually sterilized before each use. "We determined that the endoscope manufacturer's, as well as the federal government's, recommended guidelines for processing the scopes are inadequate."

FDA-approved sanitation methods for hospital endoscopes are killing patients

It is this latter statement about federal government sanitation guidelines that deserves further consideration. While it is entirely possible that many U.S. hospitals have simply been negligent in properly sanitizing their endoscopes, the general consensus seems to be that both their manufacturers and the feds have failed to conduct proper research into what actually constitutes proper sanitation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is, of course, the agency responsible for regulating the appropriate use of medical devices like endoscopes. According to VMMC, the FDA has failed to provide proper sanitation guidances, which in turn has resulted in hundreds of infections and dozens of deaths.

"Although CRE remain relatively uncommon in most acute-care hospitals in the United States, they have become an increasingly recognized cause of infection during the past decade," concluded a CDC report on hospital superbugs. "Data from population-based surveillance suggest most CRE clinical isolates came from cultures collected outside of hospitals from patients with substantial health-care exposures."

Compared to the current measles outbreak and corresponding media scare campaign, hospital superbugs are a considerably higher threat than measles, which hasn't killed anyone in the U.S. for more than a decade, according to the CDC. So where are all the cries from the mainstream media for massive restrictions on antibiotic use, both in hospitals and confined animal feeding operations, as this is a verified cause of superbug infections?


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